West Indies vs India: Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and others with a point to prove in Test series

Ashish Peter 19/08/2019
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Rohit Sharma has a chance to consolidate his Test spot.

It is the season of Test cricket around the globe with the Ashes series between and England dominating all headlines over the past two weeks.

Meanwhile, another Test battle is set to begin in the Caribbean on Thursday with the West Indies and India about to lock horns in a two-match series.

It will be the first assignment for both teams in the inaugural World Test Championship and there will be 120 valuable points at stake across the two matches.

As the two sides prepare to square off, we look at the three players from each side who will be eager to put in a big performance in the upcoming series.

WEST INDIES

Rahkeem Cornwall

Cornwall picked up 54 first-class wickets in nine games in 2018-19.

Cornwall picked up 54 first-class wickets in nine games in 2018-19.

The stocky off-spinner used to weigh over 140kgs at one point in his professional career but he is now all set to make his Test debut for the hosts after consistently picking up wickets in the West Indies’ first-class tournament over the past three seasons.

Cornwall finished as the highest wicket-taker in the 2018-19 first-class season in the Caribbean with 54 scalps at an average of less than 18. The 26-year-old has also impressed against England A and India A recently in both first-class and List A cricket and he will be eager to leave his mark in the upcoming series if given the chance.

Cornwall is also a handy lower-order batsman and can chip in with some important runs.

Shamarh Brooks

It could be a Test debut at the age of 30 for Brooks who has been handed a maiden West Indies call-up following his impressive displays for Barbados and West Indies A in recent months.

An all-rounder who can bowl some handy leg-spin, Brooks has formerly been the captain of the West Indies U19 team before progressing through the ranks in domestic cricket.

It has been an unfulfilling senior career so far for the right-hander but he now has a chance to finally make his mark at the international level and he will be desperate to do so at any cost.

Shai Hope

Hope has failed to build on his 2017 Edgbaston twin tons.

Hope has failed to build on his 2017 Headingley twin tons.

The 25-year-old has always carried plenty of promise ever since he broke through as a junior cricketer, but his senior career hasn’t exactly materialised as hoped.

Hope has been able to step up finally in the ODI format over the past 18 months or so but he comes into the Test series on the back of a less-than-satisfactory World Cup and a woeful display in the recent ODI clashes against India.

Hope looked to be finally coming into his own in the Test format in 2017 when he registered tons in each innings of the Headingley clash against England to help pull off a sensational win for the Windies.

However, he has gone off the boil since with his average hovering around the 20-run mark in the past two years.

INDIA

Ajinkya Rahane

Rahane's reliability has been decreasing.

Rahane’s reliability has been decreasing.

The India middle-order stalwart no longer looks the reliable batsman he once was in overseas conditions with his performances dropping drastically over the last two years or so.

Batting averages of 34 and 30 respectively in 2017 and 2018 are hardly the kind of returns India want from their vice-captain and Rahane will need to arrest this slide as soon as possible if he wants to remain a part of the Test set-up.

He did register a desperately needed half-century in the ongoing warm-up clash against the West Indies A but Rahane will know that he needs a big performance in the two-Test series in the Caribbean.

Rohit Sharma

While Rahane is battling to save his place in the Test squad, Rohit Sharma will look to consolidate his after being handed an extended run in the red-ball format for India.

The India limited-overs deputy captain has made just six Test appearances since the turn of 2017 but his consistency in white-ball cricket has paved the way for another Test call-up.

Rohit averages a decent 39.63 in the format so far but his performances in overseas Tests, especially against the moving ball, have been suspect and he will need to allay those fears in the West Indies if he wants to become a permanent fixture in India’s red-ball set-up.

KL Rahul

Rahul has already been given a long rope in the Test side.

Rahul has already been given a long rope in the Test side.

The Karnataka-born batsman was excellent for India in Tests in 2016 and 2017 but it has all been downhill for him ever since. He was particularly disappointing in India’s spate of overseas tours last year and did nothing of note bar his one innings of 147 in a dead-rubber clash against England at The Oval.

It always seems to be the last chance saloon for Rahul but the selectors inexplicably find a way to call him back in to the side despite his deteriorating standards and form. There is no doubt that the right-hander is one of the most magnificent batsmen to watch when in full flow but those instances have been too few and far in between over the last two years.

With Shikhar Dhawan, Mayank Agarwal and a suspended Prithvi Shaw all competing for the openers’ slot, time is definitely running out for Rahul to save his spot in the side.

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Ashes 2019: Not the best time to be an opener and other things learned from Lord's Test

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Warner's has a torrid time in the Ashes so far.

The second Ashes Test between England and Australia that ended in a draw on Sunday may have been badly affected by rain but it still produced plenty of exciting cricket.

We look at three things we learned from a fascinating clash that preserved Australia’s 1-0 lead in the five-match series.

Archer lays down Test marker

All teams want a genuinely fast bowler because speed can beat the reactions of even the best batsmen, especially if accompanied by late movement.

Jofra Archer, on the ground where he bowled the decisive Super Over that sealed England’s World Cup final win over New Zealand, marked his Test debut with five wickets and, in repeatedly topping speeds of 90 mph while bowling 44 overs, went some way to answering questions about his stamina raised by Australia coach Justin Langer.

And in striking Steve Smith on his unprotected neck during an innings of 92 – the first time this series the star Australia batsman was out for under a hundred – Archer may have delivered a telling blow.

Smith was unable to bat in the second innings because of a concussion that could rule him out of the third Test.

There are only four days between the last day at Lord’s and the first at Headingley, raising concerns that the Barbados-born Archer, like so many young quicks before him, could be over-bowled.

Former West Indies fast bowler Ian Bishop, urged caution by tweeting: “For the sake of the world game, England & (captain) Joe Root need to be more mindful of better managing Jofra Archer’s workload.

“Don’t ‘kill the goose that laid the golden egg’. We’ve seen this movie before.”

Opening up is hard to do

Australia opener David Warner scored over 600 runs at an average of nearly 72 during the recent World Cup.

Yet in four innings this Ashes, Warner has yet to reach double figures and has scored just 18 runs in total.

It is a graphic illustration of the difference between Test and one-day cricket.

The red Dukes ball in use for Tests in England tends to swing more than the white one deployed for one-day internationals, while the lack of fielding restrictions in the longer format mean captains can attack more with the new ball.

And a short gap between the World Cup and the Ashes meant batsmen involved in both events had little time to adjust to their different demands.

Warner has also been up against fine new-ball bowlers in the Ashes, with Stuart Broad alone dismissing him three times.

Nor is Warner the only Ashes opener struggling for runs.

Jason Roy scored over 400 runs at more than 64 as hosts England won the World Cup.

But he has found his debut Ashes series hard work, with just 40 runs in four innings so far.

Normally a middle-order batsman in first-class cricket, Roy has been getting out to shots that would be applauded in the one-day game – or at least excused as an occupational hazard – but are viewed as reckless in the context of a Test match.

Roy too has also been up against quality fast bowlers in the likes of Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.

More jeers than cheers

Steve Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft have all been booed repeatedly by English crowds in their first Test series since they each completed lengthy bans following a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.

But when Smith had to retire hurt after being felled by Archer at Lord’s and again when he was eventually out, there were far more cheers than jeers, although one MCC member was ejected from the Lord’s Pavilion for allegedly booing him.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison criticised the booing, which may have sounded worse on television. But regrettably wherever a Test match is held, not everyone in a large crowd can be guaranteed to behave in sporting fashion.

Provided by Press Association Sports

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Ashes 2019: A tale of two misfiring batting units even if Steve Smith operates on another planet

Ashish Peter 19/08/2019
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Both Warner and Root have been out of form.

The drama surrounding the Lord’s Test is yet to subside but all eyes are already fixated on the third Ashes Test between England and Australia which gets under way at Headingley on Thursday.

A Test which will be largely by remembered for the gripping duel between Steve Smith and Jofra Archer on day four saw the visitors just about hold on for a tense draw to preserve their 1-0 lead in the five-match series.

In the end, Smith scored a crucial 92 runs but not before he was floored by a nasty Archer bouncer that nearly took his head off. That vicious blow means there is now a big question mark surrounding his availability for the Headingley clash with concussion injuries always being a tricky one to navigate.

Whether or not Smith is passed fit remains to be seen but there is no denying that the former Australia skipper has been the key difference between the two old foes in the series so far.

Smith has been in a league of his own among batsmen from both teams in the two Tests, with the right-hander’s run-tally now extending to 378 at an average of 126. However, while Smith might be churning out runs at a rate second only to the great Don Bradman, the rest of the batting fraternity across the two sides haven’t covered themselves in glory.

That only six batsmen in total, including Smith, have managed to score at least 100 runs in the four innings so far is a damning statement for the rest of the supporting cast from both sides.

Smith’s battle with Joe Root was always going to be a decisive one in the series but the England skipper has so far failed to even arrive at the race while the Aussie has been turning out the runs like a machine.

Root started the series with a promising half-century at Edgbaston but has faded quickly ever since and scored just four runs in two innings at Lord’s. The right-hander, however, is not the only worry for England in the top-order with Jason Roy looking like a fish out of water on his Ashes debut.

The England opener has mustered just 40 runs in four innings in the series with his technique being horribly exposed by Australia’s pacers. Roy’s average of 10 is only better than James Anderson and Jack Leach for England, and the Surrey slugger’s head will definitely be on the chopping block at Headingley should another failure ensue.

Meanwhile, Joe Denly has looked good for a start in every innings but the top-order batsman has simply struggled to go beyond the 30-run mark on each occasion.

Things are not that great in the England middle-order either despite the slight return to form for Jonny Bairstow, with Jos Buttler struggling to replicate his 2018 success. Buttler is averaging less than 13 in the series with his dismal form adding to England’s frailties with the bat.

While England’s batting does not inspire much confidence at the moment, their Australian counterparts have not been much better themselves despite the individual brilliance of Smith.

The top-three of David Warner, Cameron Bancroft and Usman Khawaja have contributed just 64 runs between them in the two Tests and that has only increased the burden on Smith to do the bulk of the scoring.

In fact, Test cricket’s first-ever concussion substitute Marnus Labuschagne has looked the second most assured Aussie batsman after Smith with his 59-run knock in the second innings at Lord’s earning the Baggy Green a draw.

Travis Head has shown some promise with his battling knock at Lord’s but Matthew Wade has scored only eight runs in his three other outings at the crease after scoring a brilliant century in the second innings at Edgbaston.

Down the order, skipper Tim Paine has been dismal with the bat just like his England counterpart Root, with the Australia wicketkeeper registering just 18 runs so far.

It has very much been a case of two misfiring batting units versus two excellent bowling attacks in the Ashes this year with Smith’s stellar form proving the decisive difference.

Smith might have found a worthy adversary now in the form of Archer but how the rest of the supporting cast perform in the remaining three Tests will very well decide the fate of who the famous urn goes to.

Smith and Archer have laid down the gauntlet but where the Ashes ultimately ends up will ultimately come down to the Roots and the Warners of the two teams.

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